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29 science-backed tips for better sleep.

We designed this guide for parents who want to make better sleep habits, and for parents who can’t fall asleep because of stress or other issues. It has two parts:


  • Lifestyle Habits for a Good Night of Sleep
  • Sleep Aids and Hacks

Studies show that many parents are chronically sleep deprived. Sleep disorders are becoming more prevalent. It’s worse for new moms, many of whom are “dangerously exhausted” for months.

Lack of sleep puts an ultimate burden on people’s health, happiness, creativity, and productivity.

Myriad studies show that sleep deprivation puts a terrible burden on people’s health, happiness, creativity, and productivity.

Getting better sleep is one of the best things a person can do to improve their quality of life.

The suggestions below are well-documented and supported by science. Still, you should check with your doctor before taking melatonin, magnesium or any other over-the-counter supplements. Many medications cause sleeplessness, so talk to your doctor about that too.

When to Seek Professional Help

You should see a doctor or therapist if you’re experiencing the “rule of threes”: sleeplessness that happens three times a week, keeps you awake for at least 30 minutes, and continues for at least 30 days. Read about the effectiveness of sleep therapy for serious insomnia here.

“8 hours” of sleep is a guideline, not a rule.

Even our hunter-gatherer ancestors probably didn’t sleep for eight hours straight.  Also, occasional trouble with sleep is normal. Every person truly has a unique system with its own biological clock and requirements for sleep.

Be Your Own Little Sleep Study

To improve your sleep long-term, you have to become your own little sleep study. Document the process and results of trying new sleep routines. For many people, the easiest way to do this is on their phone. (Just don’t spend too long staring at it in bed, as you’ll note below.)

Remember, Quality of Sleep > Hours of Sleep

A study in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research showed that quality of sleep is farm more important than quantity of sleep when it comes to waking up refreshed.

Lifestyle Habits for a Good Night of Sleep

Get Enough Bright Outdoor Light

Multiple studies have shown that exposure to sunlight during the day helps people sleep better at night. For example, this study found that “Office workers with more light exposure at the workplace tended to have longer sleep duration and better sleep quality.”

That’s because high-intensity light (like the light from the sun) helps our bodies set and regulate a healthy circadian rhythm.

Too little bright light exposure during the day and then too much artificial light exposure throw our bodies out of sync, making it harder to experience healthy sleep.

Get Some Exercise

Multiple studies show that even moderate exercise like walking helps people fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.

 Don’t Bring Your Phone to Bed

This is a tough one because many of us read on our phones in bed to help us fall asleep. However, there’s ample evidence that looking at a digital screen right before bed (or in bed) disrupts sleep. This is a growing problem with a significant impact.

Update Your Caffeine Strategy 

Simply put, if you have trouble sleeping, you shouldn’t drink anything with caffeine within 6 hours of sleep. A broader recommendation is to skip caffeine entirely after 2:00 PM.

Dependent on a person’s gender and biology, the half-life of caffeine in the body is roughly 5-10 hours. But if you drink a cup of coffee at 4:30 PM, its caffeine is still with you at 10:30 PM.

The study “Caffeine Effects on Sleep Taken 0, 3, or 6 Hours before Going to Bed” found that:

“The magnitude of reduction in total sleep time suggests that caffeine taken 6 hours before bedtime has important disruptive effects on sleep and provides empirical support for sleep hygiene recommendations to refrain from substantial caffeine use for a minimum of 6 hours prior to bedtime.”

More studies on caffeine and sleep. 

Caffeine can also contribute to the sleep disorder known as Restless Leg Syndrome, which is often experienced by pregnant women. In those cases, cutting caffeine entirely is recommended.

Follow Simple Eating Strategies for Better Sleep

Sleeping on a full stomach is terrible for sleep quality. It’s also terrible for your digestive system. After a meal, the stomach requires three to four hours to empty.

However, in some cases, a (small) late-night snack can help you sleep. Via Lifehacker,  The Sleep Medicine Center at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center explains:

“A bedtime snack can help stabilize your blood sugar levels, particular if you eat dinner early or have a very active day. That’s important because low blood sugar can keep you up at night, as well as make it difficult to wake up feeling energized the next morning. Your body needs energy, even for sleep.”

Look for simple foods that are higher in protein and fat, and avoid sugar and spicy, greasy foods that contribute to stomach acid. Skip chocolate too, since that has sugar and caffeine.

Blood levels of melatonin significantly increase after eating a banana, pineapple and orange. My grandmother told me that a couple of saltines with peanut butter would help anyone sleep, and that’s still what works for me.

Suggestions from “The Best and Worst Foods for Sleep” on Greatist include:

  • Low-fat milk and whole grain cereal
  • Peanut butter on whole wheat bread
  • Yogurt with half a banana and one tablespoon of chopped walnuts
  • Two cups plain popcorn with a drizzle of olive oil

Does eating a small snack before bed make you fat? Surprisingly the jury is out on this one. In fact, it might even help people lose weight over time.

Another tip about eating and sleep: move around a bit after you eat, so your food can start to move out of your stomach.

Reduce the Booze

Having a nightcap before bed may make you feel sleepy, but it fragments your sleep. (Alcoholics don’t have many dreams for this reason.)

Simply put, to sleep better, don’t drink alcohol.

Turn Down the Heat

Sleeping in a cool room is one of the best ways to give your body a hint that it’s time to go to bed. Indeed, being too warm is what keeps many people from falling asleep.

In this Lifehacker article, Dr. Rebecca Robbins says that 65 degrees is the optimal sleeping temperature. She also says that sleeping in a too-warm room can induce nightmares.

Can’t turn the temperature down? Stick a foot out from under the covers, as shown in this video from New York Magazine.

 Be Careful With Naps

15-25 minutes (a.k.a. catnap): Because you don’t fall into a deep sleep in this amount of time, it’s easier to hit the ground running after waking up. This short bout of sleep has been proven to help with alertness and concentration, mood elevation, and sharpening motor skills.

A study on pilots found that a 25-minute in-flight nap (while the plane is manned by a copilot of course) enhanced performance by 34 percent and overall alertness by 54 percent.

(Master the Coffee Nap)

Sleep In As Dark A Room As Possible

The presence of light (natural or artificial) in our nighttime sleeping area can have a huge influence on our ability to sleep. That’s because our bodies and brains tune into light levels to manage chemicals in our blood that regulate our sleep cycles. Exposure to room light before bedtime shortens melatonin duration by about 90 minutes compared to dim light exposure. Exposure to room light during usual hours of sleep suppresses melatonin levels by more than 50%.

Don’t Stress About Waking Up During the Night

You may have heard about second sleep. Human beings seem to be designed to wake up at night, and stay awake for an hour or more. Historian A. Roger Ekirch has documented  references to this pattern through history, up until the advent of artificial light.

If you wake up like this, don’t stress and create more sleeplessness by worrying about it. Slate notes that Clark Strand, the author of Waking Up to the Dark, suggests recognizing the value of “that nighttime interval of wakefulness,” “an hour in the middle of the night where peace was there for the having … a nightly blessing.”

More about Segmented Sleep.

Try to get to bed at the same time every night.

Just as babies and children benefit from a consistent, simple bedtime routine, so do adults. The routine is a cue that helps your mind and body begin to wind down. For many people, a consistent bedtime and time to wake up help them sleep best. The Mayo Clinic recommends this practice even on holidays and weekends.

Sleep Aids and Hacks

TLDR; melatonin, magnesium supplement, light snack, eye mask, ear plugs 

Sleepy Tea

Millions of people swear by valerian, passionflower, and chamomile tea for soothing sleep, or reach for special blends like Yogi Bedtime or Celestial Seasoning’ Sleepytime Tea.

Passionflower appears to be best-documented tea for sleep. Slate reports on a 2011 study that “sleep quality showed a significantly better rating for passionflower compared with placebo.”

However, the warmth of the tea and the process of making it can help people relax. It’s worth trying these teas to see if they help you sleep.

Take a Bath

Taking a warm bath is a great way to unwind before bed for a better nights sleep. Complementary Therapies in Medicine found that soaking in warm water daily for 8 weeks is more effective at easing anxiety than a prescription drug.

Bring a cup of tea to the bath and use lavender scented soap to combine the suggestion above and the suggestion below.

Aromatherapy

Lavander is the best-documented scent to help people get better sleep. Many people sleep with a lavendar pillow for just this reason. 

Here are other oils and scents that can help you sleep.

Put the Spouse on the Couch

If you need sleep, be honest with yourself and your partner. If they’re keeping you up at night from snoring, sweating, or stealing the blankets, it’s better for everyone if you sleep alone to get healthy sleep.

They won’t like it at night, but in the long run they’ll appreciate it.

Wear a Sleep Mask

Sleep masks aren’t just for traveling. They can help block faint light that can keep people from falling asleep without knowing about it. Even Insomnia.net recommends sleep masks.

You don’t need anything fancy. The best-selling, top-rated sleep mask on Amazon.com is just $13.00.

If It’s Safe, Wear Earplugs

Don’t wear earplugs if you’re the only one home with your kids. Some of them do their job too well, and it’s possible you’ll sleep through calls for help and other important noises.

But if you can safely be earplugs, the can help create a cocoon-like experience. Two top-rated brands for sleeping include Hearos Xtreme Protection and Hearos Ultimate Softness Earplugs.

Even Better, Play Max Richter’s “Sleep.”

“Sleep” is easily the most beautiful album made this year . . . He has made something that can comfort grief, battle insomnia and allow the body to journey to strange new places.  –  Record Review 10/15

A work of “high-class chillout music” composed on piano, organ, synthesizers, and electronics that’s meant to help people experience a beautiful night of sleep. Get all the different versions here. Read more about it on NPR here.

Want sleep-friendly headphones? Review this list on Reddit of “the best headphones to sleep in.”

“Sleep” is easily the most beautiful album made this year . . . He has made something that can comfort grief, battle insomnia and allow the body to journey to strange new places.  –  Record Review 10/15

Don’t Count Sheep, Imagine Relaxing Scenes Instead

In this study, scientists at Oxford University found that people fell asleep 20 minutes sooner when they imagined a relaxing scene vs counted sheep.

The researchers suggested that counting sheep is too boring while images are more interesting. More from the NYT.

Practice Deep Breathing

This is the practice of tracking and following breathing to let your body gradually relax. You simply intentionally redirect your attention to your breathing and your body, and you lay in bed.

This is a highly studied, well-documented method for calming mind and body.

Masturbate or Have Sex

I know this might be a bit much for some readers, but masturbation is reported to help people invoke sleep. Others say it stimulates them and keeps them up. Having sex can relax the body. It also causes the body to release of oxytocin that can promote rest.

On the other hand (heh), some people say sex or masturbation stimulates them and keeps them up. You probably know what works for you, so just do or don’t do that.

Try Magnesium Supplements

Magnesium plays a key role with sleep. WebMD notes that even a marginal lack of magnesium can prevent the brain from settling into sleep while the National Institute of Heath also notes that people in the US consistently intake less magnesium than recommended amounts.

WebMD notes that “An easy way to remember foods that are good magnesium sources is to think fiber. Foods that are high in fiber are generally high in magnesium.” Good sources include green leafy vegetables, wheat germ, pumpkin seeds, and almonds.

Some people who struggle to sleep benefit from taking a 350 mg oral magnesium supplement daily, or at least 45 minutes before bed.

For example, a study on the “effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly,” researchers found that “dietary magnesium supplementation brought about statistically significant increases in sleep time.”

NIH recommends looking for the mineral in aspartate, citrate, lactate, and chloride forms, which are more bioavailable than magnesium oxide and magnesium sulfate.

Take 200 milligrams of magnesium—lower the dose if it causes diarrhea—and 600 milligrams of calcium each night.

The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends taking a “B-vitamin complex along with magnesium, or a multivitamin containing B vitamins because the level of vitamin B6 in the body determines how much magnesium will be absorbed into the cells.”

Magnesium can interact with many different  medications, and too much of it can cause serious health issues. Check with your doctor before taking any supplement.

Try Melatonin

A recent Chinese study in hospitals found that patients slept best after taking a melatonin tablet and wearing an eye mask and earplugs. They also found melatonin was the most effective part of helping people sleep.

Melatonin’s  main job in the body is to regulate night and day cycles or sleep-wake cycles. Darkness causes the body to produce more melatonin, which signals the body to prepare for sleep. Light decreases melatonin  production and signals the body to prepare for being awake. Some people who have trouble sleeping have low levels of melatonin. It is thought that adding melatonin from supplements might help them sleep.

Melatonin is the only medication Canada recognizes for children: “Of the several medications studied in the treatment of insomnia in children, only melatonin is considered safe and effective for short-term use” Page on nih.gov

As such, it has minimal side effects, but no compound that can affect the brain is without risks. According to WebMD:

“Melatonin has been used safely for up to 2 years in some people. However, it can cause some side effects including a headache, short-term feelings of depression, daytime sleepiness, dizziness, stomach cramps, and irritability. Do not drive or use machinery for four to five hours after taking melatonin.” 

Individuals with medical conditions should consult their doctors before taking melatonin, and there is a concern that long-term use of melatonin in children might alter normal development.

Although some experts recommend taking higher doses, studies show that lower doses are more effective. Plus, there’s concern that too-high doses could cause toxicity as well as raise the risk of depression or infertility. Typically take 0.3 to 0.5 milligrams before bed.

Lose Weight

I know – vastly easier said than done. But in the long run, losing weight will markedly help anyone sleep. Excess weight is one of the main causes of sleep apnea.

For Severe, Prolonged Difficulty Sleeping, Try Therapy

After completing therapy, on average, patients fell asleep almost 20 minutes faster and were awake in the middle of the night almost half an hour less, the study found. And the time they spent sleeping soundly increased by nearly 10 percent.

A recent analysis published in Annals of Internal Medicine concludes that in over 20 studies of cognitive behavioral therapy in adults, therapy is consistently effective at treating insomnia.

That’s all to say…

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While breastfeeding might seem like a simple task, there are so many pieces to the puzzle aside from your breasts and baby. From securing a good latch, boosting your milk supply and navigating pumping at work or feeding throughout the night, there's a lot that mama has to go through—and a number of products she needs.

No matter how long your nursing journey may be, it can be hard to figure out what items you really need to add to your cart. So we asked our team at Motherly to share items they simply couldn't live without while breastfeeding. You know, those ones that are a total game-changer.

Here are the best 13 products that they recommend—and you can get them all from Walmart.com:

1. Medela Nursing Sleep Bra

"This fuss-free nursing bra was perfect for all the times that I was too tired to fumble with a clasp. It's also so comfy that, I have to admit, I still keep it in rotation despite the fact that my nursing days are behind me (shh!)." —Mary S.

Price: $15.99

SHOP

2. Dr. Brown's Baby First Year Transition Bottles

"My daughter easily transitioned back and forth between breastfeeding and these bottles." —Elizabeth

Price: $24.98

SHOP

3. Multi-Use Nursing Cover

"When I was breastfeeding, it was important to me to feel like a part of things, to be around people, entertain guests, etc. Especially since so much of being a new mom can feel isolating. So having the ability to cover up but still breastfeed out in the open, instead of disappearing into a room somewhere for long stretches alone to feed, made me feel better."—Renata

Price: $11.99

SHOP

4. Lansinoh TheraPearl Breast Therapy Pack

"I suffered from extreme engorgement during the first weeks after delivery with both of my children. I wouldn't have survived had it not been for these packs that provided cold therapy for engorgement and hot therapy for clogged milk ducts." —Deena

Price: $10.25

SHOP

5. Medela Quick Clean Breast Pump Wipes

"Being a working and pumping mama, these quick clean wipes made pumping at the office so much easier, and quicker. I could give everything a quick wipe down between pumping sessions. And did not need a set of spare parts for the office." —Ashley

Price: $19.99

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6. Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter

"This nipple butter is everything, you don't need to wash it off before baby feeds/you pump. I even put some on my lips at the hospital and it saved me from chapped lips and nips." —Conz

Price: $12.95

SHOP

7. Medela Double Electric Pump

"I had latch issues and terrible postpartum anxiety, and was always worried my son wasn't getting enough milk. So I relied heavily on my breast pump so that I could feed him bottles and know exactly how much he was drinking. This Medela pump and I were best friends for almost an entire year" —Karell

Price: $199.99 Receive a $50 gift card with purchase at walmart.com

SHOP

8. Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads

"I overproduced in the first couple weeks (and my milk would come in pretty much every time my baby LOOKED at my boobs), so Lansinoh disposable nursing pads saved me from many awkward leak situations!" —Justine

Price: $9.79

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9. Haakaa Silicone Manual Breast Pump

"This has been a huge help in saving the extra milk from the letdown during breastfeeding and preventing leaks on my clothes!" —Rachel

Price: $12.99

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10. Medela Harmony Breast Pump

"Because I didn't plan to breastfeed I didn't buy a pump before birth. When I decided to try, I needed a pump so my husband ran out and bought this. It was easy to use, easy to wash and more convenient than our borrowed electric pump." —Heather

Price: $26.99

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11. Milkies Fenugreek

"I struggled with supply for my first and adding this to my regimen really helped with increasing milk." —Mary N.

Price: $14.95

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12. Lansinoh Breast Milk Storage Bags

"I exclusively pumped for a year with my first and these are hands down the best storage bags. All others always managed to crack eventually. These can hold a great amount and I haven't had a leak! And I have used over 300-400 of these!" —Carla

Price: $13.19

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13. Kiinde Twist Breastfeeding Starter Kit

"The Kiinde system made pumping and storing breastmilk so easy. It was awesome to be able pump directly into the storage bags, and then use the same bags in the bottle to feed my baby." —Diana

Price: $21.99

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This article is sponsored by Walmart. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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If you're about to be a parent, whether it's for the first time or not, then you've probably thought about all the changes in your life that are coming—especially in the area of finances. Having a baby alters your financial picture. If you take maternity or paternity leave, those changes can be even more pronounced.

If you have student loans in repayment, you may find it difficult to make monthly loan payment with a new baby, and you might be wondering how to make it work.

So how do you handle student loan payments while on maternity leave?

Here are the options available to student loan borrowers:

Family leave deferment

If you have a federal student loan, you can ask for a parental leave/working mother deferment, which offers you time without payments. Becoming a new mother isn't cause for an automatic deferment, like a job loss or serious illness, and so you'll have to work with your servicer directly to request this type of deferment. Navient, one of the largest federal loan servicers, offers information about this deferment on their website.

To be eligible, you'll need to either be pregnant or have a baby less than six months old. You must prove this via a birth certificate or doctor's statement confirming your pregnancy.

In addition, you cannot be working full-time or attending school during the deferment period. If you're hoping to ask for a deferment without taking the time off work, you'll find your request denied. The maximum length of a deferment is six months.

Forbearance

A forbearance allows you to either make a smaller payment or postpone payments completely. Like the deferment, you'll need to contact your servicer and request it. If it's approved, you can take some time off of your student loans while you're off work. Just be aware that even during forbearance, interest continues to accrue, which means your total balance will increase during that time.

Income-based repayment plan

If you'd prefer to keep making payments but just need the amount reduced, you can apply for a new income-based repayment plan. The Income-Based Repayment (IBR) plan caps your monthly payment at 10% to 15% of your discretionary income. And since it's also based upon the size of your family, it will account for the fact that your family size has changed, and your discretionary income has decreased. To apply, contact your loan servicer.

Pay as you earn (PAYE) plan

Another option is the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) plan, which allows you to pay 10% of your income, but only up to the payment amount you would have paid on the standard plan. Because the income and family size are reassessed each year, this plan is great for growing families. It allows you to get a temporary reprieve with lower payments. Then, as you further your career and increase your income, your payment gets back on schedule. Your servicer can help get you set up with the PAYE plan. Your spouse's income is only counted if you file taxes as married jointly.

Revised pay as you earn (REPAYE) plan

Under the Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) plan, you'll pay the same 10% of your income, with annual reassessment of your situation. You won't, however, get a break from counting your spouse's income. With REPAYE, all income counts regardless of how you file your taxes. The good news is that anything left on your balance will be forgiven after 20 years. Talk to your servicer to see if it's a good fit.

Income contingent-repayment (ICR) plan

The Income Contingent-Repayment (ICR) plan is either 20% of your discretionary income, or what you'd pay on a fixed repayment for 12 years, whichever is less. Just as in the other options, you must update your income and family size each year even if nothing changed. In addition, you may have to pay taxes on any amount that is forgiven because the government considers it income. It does, however, work on subsidized, unsubsidized, PLUS, and even consolidation loans, and can be applied for with your servicer.

Budgeting for a baby

There's no way around it—having a baby brings a lot of new expenses. From the things you'll need to buy before the baby comes, to the amount of diapers, bottles and other things your child will need in their first year, you'll need to figure out how much that will cost and how to correctly budget for it. Babycenter.com has a calculator that can help you break down what your child will cost in a given year. You can divide that number by 12 to understand the monthly costs.

Then, you'll want to identify where you can cut back, if possible, to continue meeting your monthly student loan obligations. For some, that might mean eating out less and bypassing the afternoon latte. For others, it'll require a full restructuring of the budget, especially if you plan to take maternity leave that's not fully paid. Since most maternity leaves are unpaid, you'll need to consider expenses, monthly bills, or other obligations that normally comes out of your paycheck and add those to the budget for the time that you're home.

After you get a handle on what your finances will look like and you have a functional budget, don't wait for your child to arrive before trying to live on that budget. In fact, the sooner you start cutting back, the better. That way, you can get a head start on saving, and you'll also be able to adjust any facets of your budget that prove unworkable.

The bottom line

Having a baby is a joyful experience. But caring for a newborn brings enough stress without the anxiety of how you'll pay student loans while you're on maternity or paternity leave. The best time to plan for your new family member is long before you bring them home. Take the time to talk to your servicer, make a budget and prepare your finances for your baby.

Originally posted on lendedu.

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Learn + Play

Michael Bublé knows how to make music that makes us feel all the feels, and his viral lyric video for his song "Forever Now" proves it.

If you've got kids heading back to school, watch this at your own risk and with some tissues handy, mama.

Michael Bublé - Forever Now [Official Lyric Video] youtu.be

The video is a simple animation of a child's room as it transforms over time from a nursery to the packed-up bedroom of a young adult leaving the nest. We held it together until it got to this part: "It wasn't so long ago, we walked together and you held my hand. and now you're getting too big to want to."

The video reminds us of the classic children's book Love You Forever, and that the babies in our arms today will one day be in someone else's arms.

Right now, when our days are filled with bottle washing and shoe getting and making sure that no one falls asleep in their car seat the days sometimes feel so long, but Bublé's telling us something that we sometimes forget: One day we will be looking back and wondering why these long days went by so fast.

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News

It would be easy to look at one of Tori Roloff's (of Little People, Big World) stunning maternity photos and think everything is going perfectly for the soon-to-be mother of two, who is expecting a baby girl with her husband Zach. But Tori is keeping it real: Though the photos may show her in a pretty dress, cradling her baby bump against a stunning backdrop, Tori isn't loving every second of her pregnancy. And you know what? That's okay.

The pregnancy is so rough, Tori initially didn't even want to commemorate it with photos (though we bet she's glad she did upon seeing the finished product!).

"I'm not one of those women who loves being pregnant," Tori writes alongside one maternity photo, which she posted to Instagram. "In fact there's not a lot of times I do love being pregnant. Don't get me wrong. I thank God for this amazing gift every single day and I know how blessed I am but it definitely hasn't made me feel my best."

But let's make one thing clear: Just because Tori is clearly finding parts of pregnancy unpleasant, that doesn't mean she isn't immensely grateful for the chance to carry her baby.

"This photo truly embodies what I LOVE about pregnancy. My growing bump is a symbol of a healthy girlsie [sic]. It's a reminder that I'm in a position that many women dream of and trust me—I do not take it for granted," she adds.

One Instagram user sums up our feelings on this post pretty perfectly. "Pregnancy is so hard and I think some people assume that if you don't love it, you're ungrateful. I think you can recognize the difficulties of pregnancy and still be grateful for it — they're not mutually exclusive. This photograph is stunning and you are glowing. Embrace your feelings, no matter what they are. You're valid in them! Sending you big love," she writes in the post's comments.

Our take? Pregnancy is not easy...at all! Morning sickness, exhaustion, back pain, hip pain, belly pain...let's just say expectant mamas can be in a lot of discomfort and voicing that discomfort is totally acceptable.

Yes, pregnancy is an amazing blessing (and one that not every woman gets to or wants to experience), but not enjoying every single second of it doesn't take away from the gratitude an expectant mom feels. So to Tori (and all the other uncomfortable preggos out there), here's what we'll say: Don't beat yourself up for not loving pregnancy. It doesn't mean you love your baby — or the privilege of carrying them—any less.

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News

There's nothing more important than the bond between a newborn baby and their parents. And while an emotional bond and attachment between parents and a child happen overs years of development, the first year is the most important because a baby's brain grows most rapidly in the first 12 months of life.

In fact, According to Scientific American, paid parental leave benefits baby's brain development. Research shows infant's brains form up to a thousand new connections per second, but those connections form best when the babies are exposed to the kind of stimulation parents on paid leave can provide.

Every parent in America should have the chance to bond with their newborn child, and America deserves a national paid leave policy that supports families.

While the nation works on a single policy, there are some very special workplaces stepping up to the plate and leading the way when it comes to helping parents do what they do best: parent.

Here are 11 employers who get it.

1. Patagonia

Holly Morissette, a recruiter at Patagonia, recently went viral with a post on LinkedIn in which she shared her experience as a breastfeeding mama working at Patagonia.

"While nursing my baby during a morning meeting the other day after a recent return from maternity leave, our VP (Dean Carter) turned to me and said...'There is no way to measure the ROI on that. But I know it's huge.'" Morissette wrote.

"It got me thinking...with the immense gratitude that I have for on-site childcare at Patagonia comes a responsibility to share a 'call to action'. A PSA to tout the extraordinary benefits that come along with not asking employees to make the gut wrenching decision to either leave their jobs or leave their babies. TO HAVE TO LEAVE THEIR JOBS OR LEAVE THEIR BABIES."

Morissette is right here. A recent survey found for 49% of expectant women, it can feel like a choice between breastfeeding or job growth and in two-thirds of cases when breastfeeding mothers point out when they are being discriminated against they ultimately lose their jobs.

That is why Morissette wrote her viral post, to raise awareness of how Patagonia is supporting parents. She hopes that maybe parents will reference her post in conversations with their bosses.

"That perhaps just one person will brave the subject with their employer (big or small) in the hopes that it gets the wheels turning to think differently about how to truly support working families. That with a bit of creativity, and a whole lot of guts, companies can create a workplace where mothers aren't hiding in broom closets pumping milk, but rather visiting their babies for large doses of love and serotonin before returning to their work and kicking ass. It's no wonder that Patagonia has 100% retention of moms. Keeping them close to their babies keeps them engaged. And engaged mothers (and fathers!) get stuff done. Thank you, Patagonia, for leading the way," she wrote.

This is hardly the first time Patagonia's commitment to parents has received attention. The company's family-friendly policies are well known and go way beyond breastfeeding acceptance.

As Quartz reports, Patagonia has been a leader in family-friendly policies for decades. It's had an on-site daycare for over 30 years and busses drop kids off at the corporate headquarters after school. The childcare isn't free, but it is quality care run by teachers and is conveniently located for busy parents. Anyone who has been waitlisted for day care or had to add an hour to their commute for drop-offs can understand why Patagonia employees love this so much.

The company also offers 16 weeks of paid maternity leave and 12 weeks of paid paternity leave. In 2016, Patagonia reported that for the previous five years it had seen 100% of its new moms return to work after maternity leave, and it's no wonder.

[This post was originally published July 8, 2019. It has been updated.]

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